INDIANAPOLIS — Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade has consistently downplayed how sore his left knee had been in recent weeks and continued after Sunday’s game to say he wouldn’t use any injuries as an excuse for his performance. But multiple sources close to Wade and the team told to ESPN.com Sunday night that he required the minor draining procedure on Wednesday before the team’s loss in Game 3.
After having fluid drained from his troublesome left knee last week, Wade had one of the worst playoff games of his career as Miami stumbled into a 2-1 series hole against the Indiana Pacers.
Apparently, all Wade needed were a few days of rest and treatment, a pep talk from his former college coach and another crack at Indiana to get his body and mind on track.
Pairing with league MVP LeBron James for a desperate and dominant two-man performance, Wade bounced back from his Game 3 struggles to finish with 30 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks in 41 minutes to help the Heat even the series and reclaim homecourt advantage from the Pacers.
Wade declined to comment on the procedure after Game 4 other than to say, “If I’m in uniform, I ready to play.”
Heat teammates and coaches have maintained that Wade has been banged up throughout the series, but especially the past three games, with nagging injuries that have lingered since late in the regular season when Wade missed eight of the last 15 games.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
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But issues with his knee, which required surgery four seasons ago, apparently cropped up again after Miami’s 95-86 victory in Game 1. Wade scored 24 points in Game 2 but was just 8 of 22 from the field and missed a crucial layup in the final seconds of Miami’s 78-75 home loss to Indiana.
The poor play continued Thursday, when Wade had difficulty driving to the basket and defending in transition. He was held scoreless in the first half for the first time in 95 career playoff games and finished with just five points on 2-of-13 shooting with five turnovers. During the game, Wade’s frustrations boiled over in a timeout when he had a heated exchange with coach Erik Spoelstra and several of his teammates before he cooled off.
In the days between Games 3 and 4, Wade faced some of the harshest criticism from the Heat fan base — with some suggesting on Twitter that he be traded in the offseason. But Wade got away from the frustration and even his teammates on Friday to spend the day at Indiana University with coach Tom Crean, who was Wade’s college coach during this three seasons at Marquette.
Wade said the 48 hours of treatment and time away allowed him to regroup for Sunday’s pivotal game.
“The last two days have been mental,” Wade said. “It was great for me just getting away and to get that energy that I needed. I know I was struggling on the offensive end, but I didn’t want that to affect my overall game.”
Wade was still sluggish early in Sunday’s game. He missed his first four shots and didn’t really get going until the second quarter, when James called for a backdoor play for Wade that resulted in a dunk after beating Paul George.
“Coming off the Game 3 performance, I didn’t need to say anything to him,” James said of Wade. “He’s in this position for a reason. He’s one of the best players in the world for a reason, so he knows how to adjust. He took it hard on himself. I know he did do that. The best thing for a scorer is to try to get him an easy layup.”
With his legs providing some lift, Wade went on to score 22 of his 30 points in the second half. At one point, James and Wade combined for 48 of 50 consecutive Heat points.
Heat forward Udonis Haslem, the only teammate who has been with Wade in Miami for all nine seasons of his career, said it was difficult to hear the outside criticism and questions about Wade’s ability in the wake of his struggles.
“I don’t really get into what people say on the outside of the media. But there was a lot being said, and I didn’t appreciate it, with that being my brother,” Haslem said. “I was happy he kept going after starting out a little slow (Sunday). He got it going and we definitely needed it. He didn’t let it get him down. He’s one of — if not the most — mentally tough people I know.”
Wade would not say if his knee would require extensive treatment before Game 5 in Miami on Tuesday. The Heat is also dealing with the loss of All-Star Chris Bosh, who suffered an abdominal strain in Game 1 and is expected to miss the rest of the series against the Pacers.
“I’m a no-excuse type person,” Wade said. “When I’m on the basketball court, I’m all about trying to help my team win. Obviously, when things are going great, everyone pats you on the back. When things are not going great, some people turn their back. But I’m the kind of person that always believe in myself, believe in my teammates and know that it can always turn around.”
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